Steve Holmes (Sherlock) is one of our most technical credible and capable members of staff. As team leader of our systems team they manage, maintain and develop some extremely complex environments for our customers. On top of this he is an active family man. He has written a blog article about how he likes to spend his spare time, which might come as a surprise to many of you… Steve Hodges.
In the spring of 2017, our best friends leased an allotment plot in Welling which we found very strange as we would normally associate an allotment with the older generation who have more time on their hands rather than a young family of five living a hectic life. When we first visited them, we were apprehensive as we didn’t know what to expect, we were surprised by the diversity of the plot holders ranging from a young autistic man in his twenties to families with young children to retired individuals or couples. There was a distinct calmness about the place, the plot holders were friendly and we immediately fell in love with it. Seeing how our friends had grafted to put their own stamp on the plot, building a chicken coup, sheds and the beds for their vegetables to grow, we decided maybe we should give it a try.
My wife Emma and I spoke to the site manager who offered us one of the many vacant plots which we snapped up and after contacting the council to finalise the paperwork, the plot was ours to start our new life as allotmenteers.
Emma and I have three children, my eldest and youngest are autistic whilst the middle child is hyperactive, adventurous and suffers with anxiety & panic attacks. We live in a terraced house with a small garden where life can be very chaotic so this helped us in our decision. The site is a large confined space with locked gates so the kids can roam freely which allows them to fully express themselves.
Our first plot 36B was a half plot (50ft x 50ft). It was an overgrown mess when we took it on with very long grass and mounds of earth. We worked tirelessly to clear and level the ground, build raised beds for the vegetables and we even built a compost heap out of old pallets. We purchased a cheap square shed on eBay to store our tools and chairs and later built a shelter for us to sit under and make tea on the gas stove. It was hard work but definitely worth it by the end.
A year later we had the chance to move to plot 12, a full plot (50ft x 100ft) next to our friends which we took but, in our naivety, and attachment to our first plot we decided to keep both. After a period of time we realised this was a huge mistake as it was a massive struggle maintaining both plots so reluctantly said goodbye to plot 36B.
Plot 12 had so much to clear before we could even think about designing a layout for the beds, from dismantling and clearing the old rotting shed to digging and rotavating over the grass. After a lot of hard work, we finally got the plot in a position to start planting our fruit, vegetables, herb and flowers which was a great sense of achievement. We are now growing a range of fruit of veg from strawberries and tomatoes to onions and potatoes to pumpkins and squash. There’s so many different things to grow and when they’re ready to pick it’s amazing to see the hard work paying off. In the winter we have lots of bonfires to keep us warm and a shed with attached shelter to keep us dry then in the summer we have lots of BBQ’s and late nights watching the evening draw in.
The boys love going to the lottie as they can help with planting and watering which helps make them feel a part of it. They love learning about how things grow and are more willing to try the produce than if we’d brought it from the supermarket. They also get time to be children in a safe, friendly environment where they can climb trees and play games without having to stay close to us parents. Most children love getting muddy with dirty hands and faces, our children are no exception as whenever we are there, they have all sorts of foliage hanging out of their hair and are covered in dirt. It is worth it to sit back and see the beautiful smiles on their faces whilst they’re having lots of fun. Our dog comes with us too and she absolutely loves playing with our friend’s dog, both of them running wild round our plots, jumping in and out of the veggie beds sometimes even flattening the veg!
Life can be so stressful at times for both parents and children and being at the lottie takes us away from these stresses and has an instant calming effect, like being on holiday in another country where you don’t need to worry about a thing.
We are so glad to be part of this amazing community of diverse people of different ages and a variety of different cultures. We will often be given growing tips, produce or even freshly laid eggs from more established plot holders. One of the best things about being at the lottie is being part of a community and simply spending the time to have a coffee or a chat about the day to day life, learning from each other and spending quality time as a family.